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Southern Baptists Drop 'Gay Friendly' Church


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Southern Baptists Drop 'Gay Friendly' Church

by The Associated Press

Posted: January 20, 2006 - 8:00 am ET

(Grapevine, Texas) The conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has severed ties with a Baytown, Texas church over its connections to a ministry designed to appeal to gays and lesbians.

The executive board voted unanimously this month to "disaffiliate" Faith Harbour after determining that it violated a constitutional provision preventing churches from supporting or endorsing "homosexual behavior", spokesman Gary Ledbetter said Thursday.

Pastor Randy Haney expressed frustration with the convention's decision, saying he agrees that "homosexual behavior is sinful."

"They were convinced I was starting a gay church and setting up a woman as pastor," Haney said Thursday. "I believe the Bible very clearly teach that homosexuality is wrong, but I also believe the Bible teaches that we are to love those who are homosexual and minister to them."

Ledbetter said the convention began investigating the church after hearing that a Web site linked with Faith Harbour contained "welcoming" language toward gays. The credentials committee was unable to resolve the matter in a December meeting with Haney.

"This is a destructive lifestyle, the Bible describes it as sinful," Ledbetter said. "And we can see anecdotes in our own society that it is not a positive lifestyle for those that are in it."

Haney said he allowed a group called Eklektos to conduct a meeting at Faith Harbour, a former bar that is home to a nontraditional church of about 30 members. Haney, a high school geography teacher, moonlights as pastor.

The Eklektos Web site describes it as a community of Christians "especially called to welcome and affirm people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered." Eklektos is a Greek word used in the New Testament to mean chosen by Christ, according to the site.

The idea for the ministry came from Wendy Bailey, an ordained minister and Presbyterian Church (USA) denominational official who attends Faith Harbour.

Haney said the church's affiliation was removed when he refused to disavow any association with Bailey, who said Eklektos is not part of any particular denomination. She said the group conducted worship at Faith Harbour on Dec. 22.

"We're going to continue to operate and do what we can do," she said. "It really saddens me that the church that says it wants to reach out to people is being the way they are with Randy."

Baptist churches are autonomous, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has no authority over its members. By removing the affiliation, Faith Harbour may not send delegates - called messengers - to the convention.

The Southern Baptists of Texas began in 1998 and has grown to more than 1,700 affiliated churches. It affirms biblical inerrancy, believes that only males may hold church pastorates and maintains strong ties to the Southern Baptist Convention. Its rival, the moderate Baptist General Convention of Texas, has grown increasingly distant from the national denomination.

Ledbetter said Faith Harbour is the first church the convention has removed from affiliation.

©365Gay.com 2006


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